Lest we forget those who gave their lives

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”  ~ Robert Laurence Binyon

Today being Remembrance Day, I’m again thinking of family members who served, and especially of those who gave their lives during the 2nd Word War, and how it affected our family in particular. I shared some of these memories and photos a couple of years ago on my old blog, but today the feelings of loss once again well up in my mind.

When I was growing up in England, we often visited my Great Aunt Sue and Uncle Harold, and my eyes were always drawn to the photo of a handsome young man in army uniform, which stood on their piano. Alfie was one of the many young casualties of the second world war. The piano had been his, and was never opened again after his death. Here he is in happier times, with his mom and dad, who never stopped grieving for their only child.


My mom often spoke with pride of her older brother Fred. He was her hero, a great swimmer and competition diver, diving from the top of cranes in Hong Kong Harbour. The two of them were very close and had lots of fun together.


Fred went down on an unmarked Japanese POW ship, the Lisbon Maru, which was torpedoed by the allies in October 1942. A Military Medal is little compensation for the loss of a beloved son and brother. His name is at the bottom of the first column on this segment of the Roll of Honour.


I know I would have loved to have had him as my uncle. Maybe he would have taught me to play the trumpet, as well as how to swim, which is something I still haven’t mastered.


This pretty birthday card was the last correspondence mom received from him, and it’s now one of my most treasured possessions.


Mom’s Uncle Bob is another relative I would have loved to have known. He would have been my great uncle, if only he hadn’t also died in the war.


My dad’s dreams of studying to be an engineer were shattered by the outbreak of war, and he was in his late teens when left his home and family in the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia, to join the Royal Dutch Navy on the submarines.


At the end of the war, he fell in love with my mom in England and they married. Because he spoke very little English, he was forced to settle for a very mediocre job as an electrician in a coal mine. Times were very hard, and any job was better than nothing, especially with a young family to support.


My dad survived the war physically unscathed, but he never saw his mom and dad again, and my sister and I didn’t ever meet our grandparents. My grandfather died at the hands of the Japanese, and my grandmother passed away when we were very young.


These faded B&W photographs fill my heart with sadness, thinking of how war can change the course of people’s lives for ever, and usually not for the better. These words spoken by General Robert E. Lee, are so true: “What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.”


96 comments on “Lest we forget those who gave their lives

  1. Pingback: The Hell Ships of World War ll | anotherdayinparadise

  2. Beautiful, moving tribute to your dearly beloved family members this Sylvia. ‘The Fallen’ is one of my favourite poems and General Lee’s quote devestatingly true. The birthday card written by your uncle to your mom made me cry. We will remember them… ❤ xxxx

  3. How many times must we say it, Ad? What a waste! Some of them died in circumstances we wouldn’t want to think about, God love them. What a colourful background you have, hon, and rightly proud of your family. 🙂

  4. Such a moving history and wonderful photos. And so tragic that the whole potential strands of families can be lost in this way. My grand-uncle was killed in the first world war — an officer straight from school to the front, who died aged 18.

  5. This is a very poignant post, and a great tribute to the people mentioned, but enjoyable too as I love seeing these old photos. How sad that your family suffered so much loss during the war. I feel I was very lucky and lost no-one although both my parents served (my father in the RAF and my mother in the WRNS).

  6. ricordi ed immagini veramente ed altamente preziosi! penso che li stai conservando e rivisitanto con tutto l’amore e l’orgoglio che giustamente ti sono possibili!
    E’ bello conoscere queste storie familiari, ti ringrazio, cara

  7. When I visit the small town where I grew up there is always time set aside to visit relatives who have passed. It has always shaken me a bit that when you walk through the cemetery you see how many of the young men who were lost all during that time.

  8. Sylvia, your family suffered horribly in the war. Mine escaped lightly in comparison, although like you my mum’s older brother was killed, the uncle I never met. And like you, I also quoted Binyon, although the whole poem, as I think it is all meaningful.

    Such a waste. And yet we continue 😦

  9. Wars bring nothing but grief and painful memories for the vast majority of people. I have lost loved ones, but none to war and I can only imagine that it must even be more painful because another human being caused their demised. I wish you well as you remember your loved ones.

  10. Your post brings it home, Sylvia. Lives lost, lives changed forever. The birthday card from Fred to your mom is priceless as are all of your photos. Thank you for sharing their stories. I thank them for their service.

  11. Your post of memories and lives lost remind us what a travesty war is. Surely we can do better than these endless wars. We were a part of the refugee crisis after WW II. It breaks my heart to see today’s refugees in such dire straits. Fleeing their homes because of another war.

  12. Beautiful tribute to your fallen relatives, and these photos are a great treasure. The 2nd WW also interrupted my dad’s plans and dreams of studying to an architect – he volunteered to join the army at 16. So many dreams shattered.

  13. Lovely to still have what I call ‘proper old photos’ of your family members Sylvia . I find a photo in the hand acts as a great prompt in recalling stories and re living a moment . Faded perhaps , and sometimes with no dates to go by leads to much interesting speculation if ones family history is a little sketchy . Yours doesn’t seem to be . That’s wonderful .
    I’ve found your post very moving .

  14. You tell beautiful stories with such ethos. I’m sorry for your losses. I’m so sorry your Uncle Fred was shot by allied forces. That seems more than unfair. Having personal losses makes our freedom seem so much more treasured.

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